Vision: How Do Women Leaders Communicate It?

Common wisdom holds that any good leader must be a visionary: without vision, a company won't know where it is going or how to get there. A good leader creates a vision and communicates that vision very clearly to her followers, so that there are established expectations from the top to the bottom of the organization. Since there can be differences in leadership styles between men and women, we must ask if vision is among those differences? Do women leaders struggle to determine and communicate vision?

The Harvard Business Review published an article in 2009 on this very topic called "Women and the Vision Thing," with interesting information and conclusions. Originally, their study found that women tested higher than men in many leadership categories except one: envisioning, or the ability to recognize new trends and opportunities and develop new direction for the organization. The perception of women as poor visionaries, in this study, comes from male peers. Now, the newly released and well researched "Athena Doctrine" by John Gerzema and Michael D'Antonio reported that being a visionary is a neutral trait, that it was neither a masculine or a feminine trait.

So which is it? Are women visionary or not?

Obviously, each woman leader is unique and brings her own set of strengths and weaknesses to the job. As a group, women leaders often exhibit very high scores in leadership areas, including (but certainly not limited to) vision and inspiration. And when based on the perception of peers, there will be expected variations in evaluation of leadership and entrepreneurship capabilities. Certainly this is an area women leaders can improve, both in perception and reality, as casting vision is among the most difficult leadership attributes.

As a woman leader, take it upon yourself to some critical self-evaluation and investigate your visionary qualities. Do you have a clear vision for your company? Have you communicated that vision (and the accompanying expectations) to your employees? To your customers? If you answer "no" to those questions, take some time to sit down and put your vision on paper. I have found testing your vision on others is a good thing. Even negative reactions give you food for thought. Often, your vision is right but the presentation of it to others may have holes. Make sure you are communicating your vision with your core values intact. People really do know when you speak with authenticity. A visionary is authentic.